John Bartrom has spent the majority of his life in the home improvement industry. At the age of 20, he sold basement remodeling jobs in northeast Indiana. A few years later he became regional manager for Pacesetter, a $300 million corporation at the time. In 2003, a bathroom remodeler in Kansas City, Kansas, recruited Bartrom to serve as vice president of sales and expand operations nationally.

The company opened new offices in Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas before selling the business to The Home Depot in 2006. Bartrom stayed on as national sales manager for the retailer and helped boost revenues in its remodeling division up to nearly $100 million. A new chief officer, though, came in and cut that program to put more focus on the stores—so Bartrom founded Jericho Home Improvements.

“I definitely saw the potential for bathroom remodeling, especially understanding complications [with] a bathroom [project],” he says. “You see a lot of large window and siding companies; but when it comes to detailed interior remodels that have a lot of moving pieces and parts and systems, it can become very complex. I really saw a huge opportunity [in] understanding how to integrate those processes and create opportunities with the right process to scale and grow that type of business.”

Jericho billed about $1.5 million in its first year and, within 10 or 11 months, launched a kitchen division. The following year, when the company topped $3 million in revenue, Jericho started to manufacture its own granite countertops. Business surpassed $6 million in the third year and then fell just short of $9 million the next year. In 2013, the company added a cabinet-refinishing division.

“In a home, there are usually multiple bathrooms, so there’s a bigger market for that in terms of contracts. In terms of revenue, kitchens bring more revenue because they’re more expensive to remodel,” Bartrom explains. “What we’re noticing in the Kansas City market is there’s a large demand for bathroom remodeling—and for a contractor that can come in from start to finish, not use subcontractors, have their own employees, and deliver quality and value to the customer.”

Bartrom and co-owner Dave Cummings decided to forgo subcontractors from the beginning and instead rely on in-house labor. Jericho employs multiple project managers and hires only master craftsmen, or workers with at least 10 years of experience who have completed no fewer than 500 projects. The company vets prospective employees through background checks and drug screening.

“There are just so many moving pieces with a kitchen or with a bathroom when you’re having to hire a plumber, an electrician, a tile guy, a demo guy and a granite company,” Bartrom says. “It becomes cost prohibitive and, from a time standpoint, it can really draw out a project. That was our plan from the start: to hire great people, keep it in house, not use subcontractors and squash that profit pyramid built up by using subcontractors—and give that value back to the customer.”

The industrywide labor shortage has made hiring more burdensome for Jericho, which employs almost 100 people. “We’ve made it the No. 1 priority throughout the entire year,” Bartrom adds. “In the past, there might have been three or four times of the year that we were hiring, and we’d put out ads. We’d fill that position and then we’d pull off. We wouldn’t look for anybody [else].

“What we’re doing now, almost no matter if we need someone or not, [is] we’re just constantly looking,” he continues. “We’ve done radio advertising for master installers. It’s very expensive, but it’s been somewhat effective. [And] if one of our installers recommends somebody [who makes it] through the process and does get hired, we give them a bonus for that person coming on board.”

The company remains on track to hit its revenue goal of $14.5 million for 2018, although a snow storm in early December delayed some leads. An emphasis in the new year will be on increasing the efficiency of internal processes, such as a custom payroll system being developed that can pull metrics from CRM software automatically and reduce the hours spent calculating paychecks by 75 percent.

“Of course, there’s a lot of cost that goes into building those things,” Bartrom notes. “But in the long run, those things end up paying for themselves.” QR

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